Thursday, September 20, 2012

Upcoming Fun

Looking for some fun and tasty things to do in the CLE? Here's just a sampling of what's coming up.
I'll start off with a fun event that is a little further south. The Kent State Folk Festival starts today. They offer tons of music, workshops and the perfect excuse to head to Ray's Place for a delicious burger and a giant beer. You can get the Mo-Fo that Michael Symon declared the "Best Thing I Ever Ate" or my personal favorite, The Mexican Burger and their amazing fries.

I think Pura Vida is one of the hippest spots in the city not only for their unique and cool decor, but also because they really have something for everyone. They have Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale on tap, have amazing house-made desserts and regularly feature lots of veggie options (African Peanut Stew, I love you!) Case in point, the upcoming Gluten Free 4 Course Dinner. Even if you are a carboholic, this is sure to be tasty. 9/25 6pm. $40, $55 with wine pairings.

If you have always wanted to try raw, vegetarian and vegan cuisine, but have either been afraid or haven't known where to get it, head over to the Lion on Lorain the last Wednesday of every month. Super sweet and talented Chef Anna Harouvis of Good to Go Cafe in the IMG Building rocks the kitchen with her healthy dishes. Next up, 9/26. Here's this month's specials:
Wet burrito with Red Enchilada sauce rolled in cabbage leaves $8.95

Raw Carrot cake with cashew icing and coconut $6.00

Anna's Lasagna: Layers of heirloom tomatoes and zucchini filled with pignoli ricotta and basil pesto w/ marinara. $8.95

The latest offering from Emerging Chefs is being held at one of my favorite Gordon Square spots, Spice Kitchen & Bar. They are known for their seasonal menus so this last taste of summer and nibbling into fall should be a taste sensation. Multi course feast 9/29 6-9pm. $75
Update~Here's the menu:
Long island cheese or pink banana squash soup with apple creme fraƮche.

Fall tomato salad with spice acre greens sweet onions cane truffle vin.

Cauliflower ravioli wilted greens and brown butter or 
crispy perch with slaw & ramp tartar sauce.

Roasted pork loin with mushroom spaetzels and brussels sprouts.

Apple bourbon cobbler with salted caramel ice cream.

While we are talking about upcoming Emerging Chefs events, I have to mention a special black tie event in October. The stunning Crop Bistro is the setting for a 20's inspired fete. The entire restaurant will be open to explore and enjoy, including the Vault. This one is worth saving up for! 10/28 6-10pm. $175
Flour Restaurant always has something fun up their sleeves! They have so much going on in the upcoming weeks. Clam bakes with an Italian twist? Fabulous wine dinner with Pio Cesare Winery? Cooking class? Yes, all this and more. They also have 1/2 off bottle nights on Tuesdays. Grab some friends or your love, get some vino and their fabulous wood fired pizza and you have a perfect night. 
Love that they are so successful in their Moreland Hills location. I miss Fountain and am hoping someone else takes over that space soon!

And the much anticipated Flavors of Northeast Ohio is coming up on Monday. It's the annual fundraiser for the American Liver Foundation. Each chef creates a tableside feast for their individual table. Check out the lineup:

 Chef Restaurant
Adam Bostwick- Culinary Co-chair
Jeff Jarrett- Culinary Co-chairAMP 150
Jim BlevinsDowntown 140
Matthew MathlageLight Bistro
Brian OkinLuxe Kitchen & Lounge
Andrew BowerMarket Garden Brewery
Michael NowakThe Black Pig
Kimberly McCune Gibson- 2011 Chef Competition WinnerHungry Bee/ReHive Ale
Brian DoyleSOW Food Catering and The Beachland Ballroom
Dante BoccuzziDante, Ginko, DBA, D.C. Pasta Co.
Anna Harouvis
It's an event that is sure to be fantastic!  9/25 6-10pm $225

And if this cooler weather makes you want to curl up on the couch, check out $24 in 24 as it debuts on Monday. It's a new show featuring Jeff Mauro of the Sandwich King where he finds cheap eats across the country. Our very own Cleveland is the first stop. Monday 9/24 10:30 pm.

Embrace Pumpkin Season! I purchased a pumpkin facial from Revelations in Lakewood for only $35 (regularly $60) and can't wait to get pampered. Perfect to get your skin ready for the cooler weather. I love this spot - looks small from the outside but is huge once you enter. They feature Aveda products and have always been great. Click here to get yours. They also feature pedicures and massages with my favorite squash for the same super price thanks to this offer.

While that sounds pretty tasty, if you prefer to actually EAT your pumpkin, here's a great recipe I plan on trying this weekend:
Pumpkin Pie French Toast via Closet Cooking
This is from a great blog called Closet Cooking. All of the fabulous recipes in this blog are cooked in a tiny kitchen which makes me think that I can make them at my house too. Lots of good stuff! Click here to check out his blog and get the recipe.

Last but certainly not least is the Taste of Little Italy. This is a fundraiser for the Montessori School at Holy Rosary. We went last year and had a blast! Fantastic food and wine all for a good cause. If you need convincing, you can read my blog about it here. 9/23 3-7pm $70 advance, $75 at the door

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Weddings According to Guys

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

#CLEfood - Priya Indian Restaurant

Recently I purchased a dining deal for a new Indian restaurant on the west side called Priya. The deal was for 1 appetizer, 2 soups or salads, 2 entrees and a dessert for $25. Sounded like it was too good to be true. Was it?

The restaurant is in an aging strip mall but once you go inside,  you can tell that it's been updated. And it's HUGE! All around the perimeter is a double row of booths. There is also a large bar off to one side and a ton of space in the middle of the restaurant. It's colorful and cheery but when we went there was no music. Now I am not a fan of blaring music while I'm eating but the lack of ANY music was strange. We also had an odd Caucasian waiter that was sort of spacey and not very knowledgeable. And slow.

Priya, Indian restaurant, cleveland
Complimentary papadum was served with assorted chutneys.
indian, papadum
Our shared appetizer was Samosa Chat - one of our favorites - and this one was delicious!
indian food, samosa chat, cleveland restaurant
Samosa layered with a chickpea sauce and topped with Tamarind, 
Mint, Yogurt, chopped Cilantro and Chat Masala
They had two choices for soup: Rasam, a spicy hot and sour soup and Mulligatawny, a mild lentil and vegetable. We opted for the Mulligatawny because neither of us like hot and sour soup and the salad sounded lame. The soup was ok, but nothing special. Save the calories for something else.
mulligatawny soup, indian food, cleveland
Next up were our entrees. We decided to choose one vegetable based and one meat based dish and share. I always like to do this at Indian restaurants because the meat dishes don't normally have a lot of veggies, if any, in them. 
Priya indian restaurant cleveland
Our choices were good. We got garlic naan that disappeared so fast I forgot to take a picture. On the bottom left is our veggie entree - Avial (potatoes, carrots, banana and drumstick with coconut.) We asked for an explanation of the "drumstick" prior to ordering and never could figure it out. It's some sort of plant stalk that I don't think is edible, but it had an interesting flavor. And I don't think there was banana in there either. But it was really good!
avial, indian restaurant, vegetarian food
The "drumstick" is the green log in this picture. It's tough and likely used just for flavor.
For our chicken dish, we ordered Tikka Masala, one of our favorites to order. I think we ordered both dishes 5 on the spicy scale and that was perfect. Nobody got hurt but it had a nice tingle.

We ordered a mango lassi too and it was fabulous! I love how it cools your tastebuds and was just the perfect level of sweetness. If our dining deal didn't include dessert, it would have been the perfect ending to our meal.

They were out of our first choice for dessert (kheer) which is an Indian style rice pudding so we chose an unusual carrot based dessert. Not bad, but we weren't fighting over it. The cardamom gave it an unexpected but interesting flavor.
kheer, carrot dessert
Grated carrots cooked in milk and sugar, flavored with cardamom and garnished with raisins & nuts
Overall, besides the weird and slow service and the bland soup, everything was good. I would definitely like to go back again sometime. They have lunch buffets during the week and on the weekend, plus one on Wednesday nights. 

Was the deal a good one? YES! We were happy and stuffed when we left, plus we had leftovers for lunch the next day for only $25. Even at full price, the most expensive entrees are only $14.99. 

They have a really nice website that has descriptions of the food. I recommend studying up online before dining in case you get the goofy waiter.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Weekend Fun: Bellydancing, Pizza Party, Chef's Unbridled and Pookas in Bedford

Do you ever notice that there are certain weekends where every organization seems to have something going on at the same time? Well this weekend was definitely one of those! There was so much going on, it was actually annoying to me - I wanted to do everything but there are only so many hours in each day. I wish these things would be spread out over more weekends!

Friday night we decided to stay home. It was an exhausting week and we needed to just chill out and relax. I made homemade pizza and calzone and we brought it next door to my neighbor's. We added some wine and it was a party.
(left)pizza with homemade sausage and eggplant sauce, red peppers, mushrooms and olives
(top)stromboli with margharita pepperoni, fresh ricotta, provolone and olives
(right)pizza with rosemary ham, asparagus, green onions and egg
Don't you wish YOU lived next door to me?

Saturday I picked up my Fresh Fork and stayed for the Tremont Art & Cultural Festival. It's one of my favorite events of the year. Troupe Shabaana always puts on an amazing bellydance show and there is a great mix art, music and delicious international foods. Every year I look forward to stuffing myself with Puerto Rican rice (arroz con gandules) and empanadillas and Korean marinated barbequed beef (bulgogi) and fermented cabbage (kimchi) - this year I was smarter and got food to go too including bibimbap. They also have pierogies, cabbage and noodles, homemade pastries, delicious Italian food from Bruno's, gyros, and more.
Afterwards, I headed to the Chagrin Valley Hunt Club Polo Field for Chef's Unbridled. I volunteered to help out Chef Jeff Jarrett of Amp 150 serve food for this annual fundraiser for Fieldstone Farm. They are a therapeutic riding center that uses horses to help people with mental and physical disabilities. It was a perfect night for a party outside and I loved helping out. It was nice to be on the other side of the table for a change and I really enjoyed seeing how excited everyone was about the food.

The event was in the polo field under a HUGE tent. 
Driftwood Catering did a fantastic job setting up the venue and appetizers. 
Amp 150, Washington Place Bistro, Greenhouse Tavern, Flour, Driftwood and Hodges were all featured. I tried all of their dishes except for Flour's short ribs and polenta because they ran out (so sad!) 

All the food I tried were all delicious! Jonathan Sawyer's presentation was the most unique and interesting: he served Matsutake en papier with fregola sardo, lobster and chanterelle mushrooms (couscous and assorted gourmet mushrooms in a purse made of filo.) It was amazing and the paper purse kept the food hot - awesome! I wish I would have taken a picture of this.

Melissa Khoury made braised lamb cheeks with herbed fregola, olives, sundried tomatoes in a vinaigrette. The fregola is a pasta similar to Israeli couscous so this was like a very fancy Mediterranean pasta salad - yum!

Jeff Jarrett's braised pork belly with corn, bacon and potato ragout with candied peppers was a stand out. And I'm not just saying that because I was serving the food! Numerous people came back raving about it all night long. 
I also really enjoyed Chris Hodge's grits with chorizo, tomatoes and beer blanc. Melissa Khoury gets props for helping with this dish too. The grits were creamy and the sauce was a party in my mouth. 

Last but not least, Scott Kuhn was searing up giant scallops. 

He served them in a puddle of gazpacho that was made with heirloom tomatoes and a drizzle of basil oil that really made the flavors pop. I would have preferred to have them separately because the cold soup chilled the hot scallop but the flavors were great.

They had horsedrawn carriage rides that seemed to be a big hit. One thing that was missing - coffee. And they only had ice cream for dessert. At least it was Mitchell's but what a huge misstep in my opinion. I stopped counting how many people stopped by our table asking for both.

The weekend ended up in Bedford at the Weekend of the Pooka. This is a small festival honoring Bedford native Richard Sedlon and the arts. This year they added a Culinary Arts Tent that featured food and wine in addition to displays by local artists, crafts for kids, musical entertainment and more. They had a nice selection of local food trucks too: Zydeco Bistro, Umami Moto and Sweet! Mobile Cupcakery (really good Wedding Cake cupcakes) along with food prepared by Angie's Rib Wagon. You can check out my post from last year here for more pics.

I've always been a huge fan of Umami Moto so it was an easy choice to grab food to go from them for dinner. We chose the Korean Burrito with bulgogi, kimchi fried rice, lettuce, carrots, daikon slaw and queso (yes, I'm bulgogi obsessed!) and the Bahn Mi, a pulled pork sandwich with mayo, daikon, carrot, onion, cilantro and jalapeno on toasted french bread. 
Bahn Mi and Korean Burrito
Both were beyond delicious especially with the side of kimchi and sriracha that gave them a touch of heat. Follow them on Twitter or check their website to find out where they are going to be parked. You won't be disappointed.

So another weekend flew by! I wish I could have gone to Ingenuity Fest but I just ran out of time. What did you do this weekend? Hope it was fun!

** disclosure: I am sharing my experiences with you because I had a great time. No compensation of any kind was received. I did get to sample the food at Unbridled because I volunteered my services. **

Friday, September 14, 2012

Eggplant Kale Lasagna

I have been so in love with my weekly Fresh Fork this year! It seems every week it gets better and better.

This was my bag last week:
All this AND a giant watermelon that wouldn't fit in the picture.
Most weeks, I've been eating things as they come and not really messing around with recipes because everything tastes great as is. I really never get tired of eating veggies - especially when they are this fresh. But this week I actually had some extra time and was in the mood to create something new and interesting.

On Friday we had pizza night and I had extra mozzarella and 2 kinds of sauce from Alesci's. If you haven't been there yet, you should really stop the next time you are on Mayfield Rd. in S. Euclid. And if you stop on a Friday (like today!) they have their ready to bake pizza dough for the amazing deal of 4 bags for $1. Seriously. In addition to their awesome dough, you can also get all sorts of things Italian like olives, deli meats and cheeses, prepared foods, dry pasta, wine, cookies, really good bread and more. They also sell frozen items like ravioli, cavatelli and meatballs. 

I normally don't buy their frozen sauce and stick with the refrigerated version for my pizza if I don't have some already made at home. But that day, it was hot out and I needed a way to keep my purchases cold so I came up with the great idea of buying frozen sauce to use as ice (genius!) - and it worked perfectly! And that sauce actually inspired this recipe. I love it when things work out like that, don't you?

I picked up a container of their marinara and found another tasty sounding sauce: eggplant and sausage. This really sounded delicious and I thought it would make an interesting pizza and it did! I added onions and kalamata olives and it rocked! That sauce is so delicious I'm going to try making some myself one of these days.

But back to the lasagna. I had some sauce left over and was going to toss it with some pasta when I decided that adding some of the eggplant I got in my Fresh Fork bag sounded good. This turned into lasagna when I remembered that I also had some fresh ricotta to go with all my leftover pizza fixings. I also had some kale left from last week and decided to add that too. I just used up what I had and winged it and this was one of the best lasagnas I've ever had! Here's my rough recipe - I didn't measure anything and you don't need to either.

boiled lasagna noodles
ricotta cheese
eggplant/ sausage sauce from Alesci's
marinara sauce
shredded mozzarella
extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small eggplant, cubed
bunch of kale, chopped
salt and pepper

1. Boil lasagna noodles (slightly firmer than al dente) while you are chopping and sauteing. When your veggies are done, drain and rinse with cool water so they are easier to handle.

2. Cut the eggplant into small cubes. Saute in a little olive oil with onions, garlic and S+P until soft.  

3. Add kale and cook until tender and eggplant is lightly browned.

4. Layer lasagna in 9x13 pan, starting with a generous pour of sauce, then noodles, ricotta, veggies, more sauce and mozzarella. 

5. Top with another layer of noodles and keep going until you run out. 

6. Make sure the top layer is covered in sauce and finish with mozzarella.

7. Bake covered at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

8. If you like the top cheese to be browned, uncover and bake 5-10 minutes more.

9. Let lasagna rest for 10 minutes, then dig in and enjoy!
veggies are poking out because I ran out of noodle for my last layer
super yummy!
Mine was very thin because I was using up leftover sauce and cheese and only had a partial package of noodles. Normally, this would be twice as thick at least, depending on the pan used.

This uses up two ingredients that a lot of CSA customers aren't sure what to do with (eggplant and kale) and it tastes amazing! If you don't eat meat, you could use just the marinara sauce and I'm sure it would still be great. I thought it would also be good with some mushrooms added. 

This is my favorite kind of recipe - it's super easy to make and I clean out the fridge at the same time. Hope you like it too!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Get Out and Have Fun - Upcoming Weekend Events

If you don't have any plans for this weekend, there are a LOT of fun things to choose from. Here's just a few to get you started:

1. 14th Annual Tremont Arts & Cultural Festival 9/15 + 9/16 (Lincoln Park) free
This is one of my favorite festivals - it's always a lot of fun. Music, Greek dancers, my favorite belly dancers Troupe Shabaana, and of course delicious food. You will find tons of homemade ethnic eats provided by local churches and their members. I normally stuff myself full of the Korean and Puerto Rican dishes.
2. Weekend of the Pooka 9/14 - 9/16 (Bedford Commons) free
OK, I know the name is silly, but it's a fun little festival that has free admission, live music, artists, face painting, food trucks and more. This year they are also featuring a "Meet the Authors" book signing event on both Saturday and Sunday from 1-5pm. Local favorites Michael Heaton and Les Roberts (Milan Jacovich series) and John Gorman of WMMS fame will be there too.

Also new this year is a Wine and Food Tasting Saturday from 1-7 and Sunday from 1-5. For $5, you can sample food and wine and learn from local chefs, authors and experts. Umami Moto will even been teaching you how to make their famous Pad Thai!

3. Chef's Unbridled 9/17 6:30pm (16497 Snyder Road • Chagrin Falls) $100
This is a fundraiser for Fieldstone Farm in Chagrin Falls. Guests will enjoy food from some of Cleveland's top chefs including Chris Hodgson of Hodges, Brandt Evans of Pura Vida and Blue Canyon, Jeffrey Jarrett of Amp 150, and Scott Kuhn owner of 87 West at Crocker ParkThe Welshfield Inn and Washington Place Bistro. The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra will be providing music for the event.

Fieldstone Farm is a therapeutic riding center that uses horses to help people of all ages with mental and physical disabilities. They also have an alternative high school program on the premises called Gateway High School for kids that have behavioral and emotional issues that keep them from being successful in a traditional school setting. All proceeds from this fundraiser benefits the center and the school.

4. 2nd Annual Crocker Park Wine Festival 9/14 + 9/15 $25 for weekend pass
This is an event benefiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. You will be able to sample 150 different wines, craft beer and food. 10 tastings are included with your admission price with additional tasting available at $1 each.And The Wine Buzz Magazine has a giveaway for 2 FREE tickets! Email them that you are interested at with CROCKER PARK WINE FESTIVAL in the subject line for a chance to win! 

5. Ingenuity Fest 9/14 - 9/16 (Docks 30+32 by the Browns Stadium) free

This is an annual festival of art and technology that is always interesting and fun. I don't know how to describe it really except that it's always different and cool. Check out this description of one of the performance groups (description from the Fest's own website): 

GO Roadshow is “a musical street spectacle on wheels”. 
This show-making machine is a 34-foot long monster truck retrofitted with truck-horn calliope,a wall made of rotors and a spinning grand piano that is played while it wheels around! Each show starts with a shameless parade of peacock trumpets, 
spinning drums, accordion, sousaphone, and glockenspiel.

Lots of bands, performance artists, comedy, interactive exhibits and more. 

6. Chardon Brew Fest 9/15 $20 advance purchase. $25 at the door.

This is a great event for the beer lover! So many great beers will be available like Great Lakes, Indigo Imp, Fat Heads, Cellar Rat and of course Chardon Brew Works. And you also get a mug to take home.

Whatever you do, get out and enjoy the gorgeous weather and have fun!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sept. 2012 Dinner in the Dark - Luxe

Dinner in the Dark is a unique dining experience founded by Brian Okin of Luxe Kitchen and Lounge and Jeffrey Jarrett of Amp 150 at the Cleveland Airport Marriott. 
Jeff Jarrett and Brian Okin are a great team!
No, you don't dine without light thankfully. The food is too beautiful for that! Instead, being in the dark refers to the mystery involved. You know the date, time and location of the event but you don't learn the chefs involved or the menu until you arrive. I love a good surprise and I haven't been disappointed yet! And as a bonus, all proceeds benefit the charity chosen by the hosting chef for the night.

Last night the charity was The Covenant, an adolescent chemical dependency treatment and preventive center. They are located in Ohio City and have been helping youth for over 25 years.

I've gone to several of the Dinners and absolutely love the concept and the charitable element. All the charities are local and most have a special connection to the chef involved. They sell out super fast - this one in only 3 days! - so if you want to attend (I promise, you do!) don't procrastinate and get your ticket as soon as they go on sale. Follow them on Twitter @DinnerintheDark or on Facebook to get the scoop. They announced the next Dinner last night: October 15th at the Tri-C Hospitality Management Center on Public Square right next to Pura Vida. Tickets on sale now - click here.

Here's the menu - as you can see, they list the Chef's name and a picture representing what the main ingredient of the course will be. Don't worry, no horse was served!

Last night the food was sublime! Here's what we ate:

Mr. Wing's Bubble Tea with Watershed gin, aloe juice, green tea, ginger and juniper
Eric Ho, Melt (Independence)
Amuse bouche: raw tuna with jalapeno, ginger, scallion, and sea salt in a miso broth
Pat Thaxton, Luxe

Fried Pig Trotters (feet), red mustard greens, pickled fennel,
ginger beet gastrique and poaced egg
Brian Okin, Luxe
Green curry soup with shrimp, shitake, lemongrass, coconut milk, 
fresh basil, and grape tomatoes
Bac Nguyen, Bac in Tremont
Alder cured and compressed Strawberry Watermelon with prosciutto,
nasturtium leaf and bay leaf infused balsamic
Brian Doyle, Sow Food
Seared salmon with roasted pepper strips and citrus salad over
roasted tomato and corn puree with bacon
Miguel Neira, Key Center Marriott
Intermezzo - watermelon gelee
Ray Garman, Luxe
Smoked beef tongue pastrami, pickled cabbage, pickles, pickled mustard seed, gruyere and egg sponge, and beet horseradish over rye bread puree
Jim Blevins, Downtown 140 - Hudson 
Milk chocolate panna cotta, salted caramel, quail egg malted creme anglaise with rice pearls, cocoa nibs, red river sorrel, amaranth and chocolate mint
Jeff Jarrett - Amp 150

The stand out for me was the deconstructed pastrami sandwich from Jim Blevins. It was incredibly creative and unique and absolutely delicious! Who thought beef tongue could taste sooo good? 

Same thing could be said for the fried pig's feet patty from Brian Okin - this was a far cry from the pickled pig's feet I remember eating as a kid.

The dessert course was also a favorite - I loved the crispiness the rice pearls added to the creamy panna cotta. Also, the addition of the chocolate mint was so refreshing. I liked that I could choose to have a bite plain and then another bite with the mint added - it was like 2 desserts in one. YUM!

And Ray Garman gets bonus points for his watermelon gelee - I discovered Jello shots in orange rinds in Vegas and loved that he used that presentation for his intermezzo.

Last night Dinner in the Dark said farewell to longtime worker Christina. She's off to Chile for new adventures. Bon voyage Christina!!
Jeff Jarret, Brian Okin, Brian Doyle and Christina
Thanks to Luxe for hosting another fabulous Dinner in the Dark. If you can't make it to a Dinner in the Dark, you can always pay a visit to one of the participating restaurants and taste the delights from these super talented chefs.